ISET Concentration

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Immersive Storytelling and Emerging Technologies (ISET) is a concentration designed and lead by Founding Director Gabo Arora along with the industry’s award-winning creative pioneers. Its mission is to utilize and contextualize dominant emerging technologies – including virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence – for artistic expression and social impact.

The Faculty, Artist in Residents, Research Fellows, and Guest Lecturers create projects, research and develop new tools and offer courses that provide new perspectives on how technology shapes our relation to the world, to others and — most importantly — ourselves. Experimentation is encouraged. Recent student projects have included aspects of ethnography, experimental art, data visualization, animation, oral history, and narrative VR.

This new concentration will accelerate aspiring creators’ understanding of dominant emerging technologies including virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. The MA in Film & Media program at Johns Hopkins University is the first Film & Media degree in the country to offer a full curriculum dedicated to Immersive Storytelling & Emerging Technologies.

ISET Methodology

The ISET concentration is a highly collaborative educational experience focused on expanding the horizons of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality/Artificial Intelligence storytelling, as well as developing innovative uses for this technology across disciplines. In each course, students are guided by interdisciplinary experts to leverage immersive tech as a vehicle for change in discipline, industry, social issue, or other applicable challenges. These may include applications to medicine, public health, education, media arts, diplomacy, and business. Each class will have a mix of students with different backgrounds, including computer programming, visual art, journalism, filmmaking, and music, who will come together through their focus on innovative storytelling. Innovation and collaboration are at the core of this project-based concentration, where students are expected to develop the skills and perspectives needed to create engaging storytelling through emerging technology. These stories will be designed to engage audiences and leave them thinking about vital business, policy, and social issues.

ISET is the Future

VR and AR technologies represent the next stage in the evolution of how we interact with information, entertainment, and one another. The applications are endless and will create unprecedented amounts of opportunities and innovations across multiple sectors on a global scale.

Already, VR and AR are transforming medicine, education, and content creation. This transformation will only continue, and on a larger scale and an increasingly faster pace, as the technology matures and its market share increases.

The VR/AR industry is growing rapidly. According to a 2016 report by Citigroup, the VR/AR sector has seen nearly $3 billion in investments nationally over the past two years. The report also projects that the global VR/AR market could grow to $2.16 trillion by 2035 as different industries and applications make use of these new technologies.

This program will prepare students for jobs in creative media companies, global IT companies, 3D graphics, and product design. Students will learn in a multidisciplinary environment where they will gain a broad understanding of the various ways that immersive technologies are being used and developed. Students who complete the concentration will be prepared to fill key positions such as VR operator; Senior Gaming and VR Engineers; VR Director; Experience Designer; and, AR/VR Developer to name a few.

Johns Hopkins University is uniquely positioned to become a leader in VR/AR due to its diverse talent pool and strong academic reputations in fields destined to be affected by these new technologies. A 2016 Goldman Sachs report identified healthcare, education, real estate, retail, live entertainment, and video entertainment as those most likely to be impacted by VR/AR.

ISET Courses

Foundations of Immersive Storytelling: Theory & Practice (3 credits)

This introductory course will provide students with the tools and the mind set for making compelling VR/AR experiences. While the industry is nascent, the technological and storytelling innovations move forward at breakneck speed. Students will also, each class, dissect to understand the approaches to the current catalog of immersive experiences, ranging from 360 film, to animation and room scale installation experiences, often with creators who made them to understand challenges and lessons learned. Subsequently, after this overview, students will have the option to build their own prototypes and, also, to support a VR/AR project housed within the program with a leading artist.

Immersive Tech: Empathy and Cognition (3 credits)

Immersive technology is revolutionizing the relationship between storytellers and their audiences. But we still know very little about the cultural, ethical and psychological implications of such interactive interfaces. While it is clear the integration of VR/AR/AI will revolutionize multiple aspects of our society; careful consideration is required when extrapolating its benefits to media consumers. As the new medium evolves, students will learn how to evaluate empathy, identity, privacy, in addition to immersion, efficiency, and productivity.

Social Design: Concept, Story & Interaction (3 credits)

This course will cover designing immersive tech concepts, stories, or games with social and cultural impact. Students will address the various components of an immersive experience including narrative flow, art, interaction design, and social impact objectives. Each session will include case studies, industry best practices, and presentation by experts followed by in-class discussions.

VR Storytelling (3 credits)

Virtual reality is a powerful tool providing a 360-degree view of the story. It catapults participants right into the middle of the action, breaking physical and economic barriers by enabling them to travel into different environments and explore new realities. Each session will introduce students to VR films and review published 360 video formats. In addition to a comprehensive overview of the technology, its history, as well as current and future uses, students will learn how to plan, produce, and edit stories in VR.

Building Augmented and Mixed Reality (3 credits)

The AR/MR course teaches students how to create new immersive AR formats for publication, exhibition, or other forms of distribution. This course builds on skills learned during the Game Engine Camp and requires an understanding of Unity, Unreal Engine, 3D modeling, and animation. Three sections make up the course organization: concept development, building & iteration, and optimization & testing.

Future Tech: AI and Cognitive Technology (3 credits)

This course provides students with the opportunity to learn how to create prototypes and to explore immersive storytelling using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data journalism. Students get hands-on experience using open source AI tools including Google Cloud, Microsoft Cognitive Services, and IBM Watson. In addition, to technical skills, students will learn key considerations related to ethics and standards of deploying artificial intelligence.

Stories Through Conversation (3 credits)

Voice commands, conversational interfaces, and chatbots are redefining how individuals engage with the world around them. These platforms carry new opportunities for storytelling, art, and media display. Students will learn the design principles of conversational interfaces and how to adapt messages and stories to each medium. Furthermore, they will be taught to build experiences for voice devices such as Amazon Alexa as well as produce media for messaging apps.

Physical Computing and Installations (3 credits)

The internet of things provides storytellers an opportunity to rethink the traditional approach of media creation. Students will learn how to combine software and hardware to develop new forms of content. In this course, they will develop knowledge in JavaScript and Python which allows them to program microcomputers such as the Raspberry Pi and Arduino. In addition to programming, students will also use the modeling skills learned in the game engine camp to produce 3D printed installations that are capable of internet connectivity.